The start of the month of August is always greeted with enthusiasm by the farmers and growers throughout the Mediterranean dried fruit growing areas.
This year weather conditions have been perfect so far with a bumper crop of Turkish raisins and sultanas expected and an exceptional crop of Turkish dried figs.
Greece is also predicting a larger than average currant crop, which will be good news for an industry that has been starved of raw material.
Last Monday (July 29), a meeting was organised by Taris, the largest Turkish growers co-operative, and the Turkish Grain Board and the Turkish Minister of Agriculture. The clear message was that farmers and producers should look to achieve an opening price of TRY10 (USD1.78) per kilo, significantly higher than the opening price of last year. The idea is to create a stable market, but with a large tonnage and a free market it is difficult to understand how this can be controlled, as Taris no longer has the financial resources to purchase a major part of the crop.
New season sultana prices continue to vary between USD1,900-2,000 per tonne fob for specially cleaned standard No.9 sultanas. Some packers are however, reported to be offering at lower levels so it is really too early to know where the market will settle. First shipments are expected to take place around the second week in September.
The Turkish fig crop is apparently likely to be one of the largest in recent times, at more than 80,000 tonnes. However, there is virtually no carry-over so opening prices will remain firm. A first shipment date has not been agreed yet but is expected to be around the middle of September.
The Greek currant crop should exceed 20,000 tonnes but much depends on weather conditions during the harvest. First new season prices are expected in about 10 days and again, may open at a relatively high level and then gradually settle back once the crop is safely gathered.
The storm cloud remains the possible impact of a ‘hard Brexit’ at the end of October. This could, in theory, interrupt supplies in the run-up to the critical Christmas period. Most packers will therefore look to achieve early shipments to help build stocks.
The political uncertainty has also had a dramatic effect on the value of sterling, which has fallen dramatically against both the euro and the US dollar. Rumours abound that sterling may fall even further and traders are likely to wait to see the possible impact on costs, before approaching customers to seek price increases.
In conclusion, the political uncertainty both here in the UK and at origin and the consequent effects on the values of currency will mean a challenging period in the run-up to Christmas.